Sotloff Family Calls Out ISIL Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

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Yesterday, a candlelight vigil was held for American journalist Steven Sotloff. Just hours before, Barak Barfi spoke on behalf of the Sotloff family to reveal their pain, and also, deliver a message to Abu Bakr. Barfi is a Middle East scholar who delivered most of his speech in English, then switching to Arabic at the end.

In Arabic, Barfi addressed ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: 

I also have a message to Abu Bakr. Woe to you! You said Ramadan is a month of mercy. Where is your mercy? God does not like aggressors. I am ready to debate with you. Abu Bakr, I come with kind preachings, I have no sword in my hand and I am ready for your response."

 Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is not the leader's given name, the United States government files him as "Abu Du'a." His real name is believed to be Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarra. As al-Samarra, he earned an Islamic Studies degree from the Islamic University of Baghdad and went onto be become a cleric. He seems to have adopted his most commonly used name, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, from an ancient Muslim leader: Abu Bakr was the Islamic prophet Muhammad's father in law. He was also his "chief advisor" and after Muhammad's death, he "succeeded to the Prophet’s political and administrative functions, thereby initiating the office of the caliphate." 

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Before becoming the Islamic States leader, al-Baghdadi was involved with al-Qaeda. His faction turned into what is now known as ISIL. There is currently a $10 million bounty set by the National Counterterrorism Center for the ISIL leader. He has been called the "true heir to Osama Bid Laden." 

While Barfi urges for al-Baghdadi to respond, it is unlikely the leader will do so directly. Al-Baghdadi has been called "the invisible sheikh" because he appears so rarely. There are two known photographs of him and a video sermon, and even when addressing his followers, he veils his face for anonymity. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.